Thai law has extensive regulations that address ownership of land by a Thai national with a foreign spouse. Generally, the Thai spouse is not allowed to purchase land if it would cause the land to become the marital property of husband and wife or to become property obtained through joint-efforts in the case where the couple have not registered their marriage. An interesting legal issue does arise in the case where a Thai spouse’s purchase of land is enforced by a court order, but resisted by the Land Office on the grounds that the Thai spouse cannot assume ownership of the property because it would become marital property. The Land Department issued an advisory opinion based on the following facts:
See also Acquiring Land with a Foreign Spouse
- The Thai spouse (who did not register her marriage with her foreign husband) purchased a plot of land in a public auction conducted by a bailiff. Upon purchasing the land, the Civil Court ordered that the mortgage on the land be released and that ownership be registered in favor of the Thai spouse. The Land Office refused to register the transfer of ownership on the grounds that the money used to fund the purchase was property earned through joint-efforts with a foreign spouse. Therefore, registering the transfer of ownership would cause the foreign spouse to be a co-owner of the land in violation of the Land Code. The Civil Court issued an order that the Thai spouse and her foreign husband were not married and that in any case, where the Thai spouse has lawfully purchased the land from an auction, it was the duty of the Land Office to register ownership in favor of the Thai spouse.
- The Land Department was of the following view: The fact that the Thai spouse lawfully purchased the land during a public court auction means that she has rights according to Section 1330 of the Civil and Commercial Code. However, the registration of rights to land is a different situation and the registration of rights to land for certain individuals is different according to the terms of the Land Code. Furthermore, in ordering that the land be sold by public auction, the Civil Court did not consider whether the buyer would be able to register her rights to to the land according to the Land Code. Therefore upon successfully purchasing the land in the public auction, the Civil Court’s order was only a notification to the Land Office to proceed according to the law, it was not an order that the land be registered in favor of the buyer. Finally, since the Thai spouse used funds that were obtained through joint-efforts with her foreign husband, registration of ownership in her favor would have caused the land to become joint property of husband and wife in violation of the Land Code.
Real estate law in Thailand is complex and often involves criminal penalties. Foreigners interested in investing in land in Thailand or who are interested in doing so with a Thai spouse are advised to consult with competent Thai legal counsel before proceeding.